In depth: Smart grid technology and importance of substation automation

Smart grid integrated with renewables and substations
Figure 1: Smart grid integrated with renewables and substations in various parts of the grid

By Kripa Venkat, Texas Instruments

Smart grid technology: The importance of substation automation in energy grid management

In the past few years, terminologies such as smart grid, grid intelligence, smart meters, grid infrastructure are being widely used. The purpose is to increase the efficiency and robustness of energy generation, transmission and distribution. Due to the ever increasing demand for energy, there have been several efforts to develop, and combine renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.

The goal is to ensure uninterrupted and reliable availability of power/energy. In parallel, there are initiatives to increase awareness to save power, reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment and preserve natural resources.

In developed countries, the grid has served very well for many decades, but needs an overhaul for the above mentioned reasons. In developing nations, there are huge investments in place for this overhaul, but things are slow-paced due to several regulations and bureaucratic delays.

There are several examples that highlight the need for an overhaul of the current infrastructure; let’s look at some examples. In 2013, we had the Super Bowl black-out affecting half the stadium during the third quarter, North India black-out of 2012, and several others that repeatedly happen but don’t get on the front pages of global newspapers. Unfortunately, this affects the lives of millions of people, leading to chaos, accidents, loss of life and property.

Efforts are being made by utility companies all over the world to ensure incidents like these are avoided. In most cases, blackouts are a result of rapid increased need for power, thus overloading the grid; however, natural disasters such as hazardous weather conditions might be unavoidable. Most recently, security requirements have gone up due to threats issued by terrorist organizations to dismantle the grid via hacking, malware and….

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